Medicinal Mushrooms Day 2: Chaga

Yesterday, we told you about some of the impressive benefits of shiitake mushrooms. Even if you aren’t a huge mushroom fan, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of this variety.

But we’re willing to bet that’s not the case with this one…

Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees across the Northern Hemisphere. Some folks call them birch cankers, clinkers or even black mass. That’s because they don’t look like mushrooms at all. Actually, they look more like big clumps of dirt. Don’t let the unappetizing appearance scare you off… There are some serious health benefits packed into this weird-looking superfood.

Here are five of them…

Slower aging. Chaga is full of antioxidants. These fight the oxidative stress that causes physical signs of aging, like sagging skin, gray hair and wrinkles. The more antioxidants you can supply your body with, the slower the aging process. In fact, chaga may be able to reverse certain visible signs of aging. That’s why you’ll find it in many beauty and cosmetic products.

Better blood sugar. While this hasn’t been studied directly in humans, animal research links chaga to lower blood sugar levels. One study of diabetic mice found that chaga lowered their blood sugar by 31% in just three weeks. One reason for this could be that these mushrooms are high in fiber. This nutrient helps slow your sugar absorption… which then can improve blood sugar levels. It can also lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Stronger immunity. Chaga can promote the formation of beneficial cytokines. These are special proteins that help regulate your immune system. These cytokines stimulate your white blood cells, which fight off harmful bacteria and viruses. It means that adding chaga to your diet might help fight off infections. Even better, animal research confirms chaga prevents the production of harmful cytokines. Unlike their beneficial counterparts, these trigger inflammation and are linked to disease.

Cancer protection. As with shiitake, research shows chaga can be a powerful cancer fighter. One study found that chaga shrank tumors in mice by 60%. Other studies show that it prevents the growth of human liver, lung, breast, prostate and colon cancer cells. Researchers believe this is due to its high antioxidant content, especially its triterpenes.

A healthier heart. Chaga extract may lower your risk of heart disease. Studies show that it can reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. It also lowers triglycerides while increasing antioxidant levels, leading researchers to believe in chaga’s cholesterol-lowering effects. Chaga’s anti-inflammatory effects may also help shield your heart from damage and disease.

Like shiitake, there are various chaga preparations to choose from. You likely won’t find chaga at specialty food stores. But if you do, consider adding it to foods you already enjoy. Its taste profile is somewhat similar to shiitake’s. It’s earthy, but less woodsy and with some bitterness.

You’re probably better off getting chaga tea or supplements online. It might be easier to find chaga as part of a mushroom-blend tea than on its own. The same goes for supplements. You may see chaga as an ingredient in certain antioxidant formulas.

Next time, we’ll tell you about another odd mushroom you’ll want to check out. This one fights cancer, too. But it can also boost athletic and sexual performance. You won’t want to miss it.

Related Articles